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Adventure Cambodia

angkorwat1WHY WE CHOSE CAMBODIA 

To many Singaporeans especially those with children, Cambodia is definitely not their choice. Why did we choose Cambodia?

When the travel bug bites, there are occasions when one cannot even scratch, (the days are so full of deadlines and routine, children going to school) let alone pick one’s knapsack for the dream destination. When you are able to leave, the hundred and one hitches connected with the journey makes one wish that one remained in the office, dealing with the more predictable bottlenecks. Then came school holiday, we had to decide where to go,

So, when the bug bit us hard but times are bad, Goh and I did not want to burn a hole in our pocket. Cambodia fitted our budget. Travelled with Jetstar Asia, our tickets cost us S$900+ including taxes for 5 people (2 adults, 2 children, 1 infant).

At Siem Reap 11-14 November, we stayed at a guesthouse ran by a British, Mr Dave Perkes. During breakfast, we chatted with him and met people from France, USA and UK who also stayed at Peace of Angkor Villa. We were like a family and the place like our house as we walked about the villa bare-footed. The room in the guesthouse was clean and staff friendly. http://www.peaceofangkor.com

We travelled by bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. It was hellish. First of all, the company promised to pick us up at Peace of Angkor at 8:40am to the bus-station. The bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh supposed to depart at 9:30am. We waited for 45 minutes before the shuttle bus came. And we didn’t know it was the beginning of ‘a 6 hours suana’. The bus company was Angkor Express. The air-conditioning was not working properly and the entire journey was torturous. Bus tickets at USD10 each were not cheaper than other companies. We blamed on our wrong choice, thinking that the bus would be new as this is a new company.

First night in Phnom Penh was at New York Hotel because our first choice, the boutique hotel: The Billabong was full on the night of 14th November. Our experience at New York Hotel was very bad. We waited until 7pm and were still unable to check-in to the so-called VIP room. After complaining which escalated to an argument with the manager, we upgraded to the bigger Suite Room by paying more. We were at their mercy because we paid the room charge plus a deposit. Very tiring and we just need a room to rest. What a horrible first day in Phnom Penh!

 The Billabong offered more than what we asked for. It has a well-maintained swimming pool and it is conveniently located, very near to Sorya Shopping Complex and Central Market. We stayed there from 15th to 17th November. http://www.thebillabonghotel.com  

Tuk-tuk was our main mode of transport in both Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. We hired them full-day to bring us around on certain days when we wanted to travel far. Average charge was USD15 for a full-day trip. ay after day we met many Cambodian people who helped us know more about their country. Khmer people are friendly and authentic. In spite of the chaotic circulation and the pollution, the general atmosphere of the cities is peaceful.

You’re invited to view these photos online at KODAK Gallery! Just click on View Photos to get started. http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLanding.action?c=20h031if.80igb8n7&x=0&y=vzh3b6&localeid=en_US 

 

 CAMBODIA CHILDREN 

 

Children peddling their wares.
Children peddling their wares.

Cambodia is a country I will never forget. Angkor Wat is beautiful of course, but it is the people, or more accurately, the street children of Cambodia who left the most lasting impressions.

Most of us have no idea how lucky we are to have all that we have now. It is the same with me, unfortunately, that is, until I went to Siem Reap. My sole intention of going to Siem Reap was to visit the world famous Angkor Wat. I got my wish fulfilled, but I also gained something else. I gained an insight on how tough life is for the street children who had to work to ensure their survival. Most times, it is not just their survival, but that of their families as well. Such heavy burden on their small shoulders.

The street children of Siem Reap do not go to schools, a luxury unknown to them. Instead, children no taller than 3 feet are out on the streets daily, cajoling tourists like me to buy their wares. “One dollar, you buy?” is but a popular phrase. If the tourists do not understand English, no problem, there’s Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Mandarin that they are able to converse in, just take your pick. I am amazed by their will to survive and adaptability, to make that extra dollar that will make such a huge difference to their families. An extra dollar that means practically nothing to us who are so used to our lifestyles.

It’s a sad sight to see street children who wait outside restaurants in Siem Reap catering to tourists because such luxury is out-of-reach to them. Do we not feel guilty indulging in such luxury, bubble-wrapped in our worldly comforts while the children outside have barely enough to eat daily? How do you even begin to comfort a small child waiting outside with such hope in his eyes?

The children showed me so much more than the beauty of Angkor. They showed me that in order to survive, we need to be resilient and driven in the midst of adversity. It is not self-pity they wallow in, it is hope. They have shown me that in times when things look bleak, there is a glimmer of hope. The children have 

Cambodia is the country I will never forget. Angkor Wat is beautiful of course, but it is the people, or more accurately, the street children of Cambodia who left the most lasting impressions. 

Most of us have no idea how lucky we are to have all that we have now. It is the same with me, unfortunately, that is, until I went to Siem Reap. My sole intention of going to Siem Reap was to visit the world famous Angkor Wat. I got my wish fulfilled, but I also gained something else. I gained an insight on how tough life is for the street children who had to work to ensure their survival. Most times, it is not just their survival, but that of their families as well. Such heavy burden on their small shoulders.

The street children of Siem Reap do not go to schools, a luxury unknown to them. Instead, children no taller than 3 feet are out on the streets daily, cajoling tourists like me to buy their wares. “One dollar, you buy?” is but a popular phrase. If the tourists do not understand English, no problem, there’s Japanese, French, Spanish, German, Korean, Mandarin that they are able to converse in, just take your pick. I am amazed by their will to survive and adaptability, to make that extra dollar that will make such a huge difference to their families. An extra dollar that means practically nothing to us who are so used to our lifestyles.

It’s a sad sight to see street children who wait outside restaurants in Siem Reap catering to tourists because such luxury is out-of-reach to them. Do we not feel guilty indulging in such luxury, bubble-wrapped in our worldly comforts while the children outside have barely enough to eat daily? How do you even begin to comfort a small child waiting outside with such hope in his eyes?

The children showed me so much more than the beauty of Angkor. They showed me that in order to survive, we need to be resilient and driven in the midst of adversity. It is not self-pity they wallow in, it is hope. They have shown me that in times when things look bleak, there is a glimmer of hope. The children have

KILLING FIELD AND TOUL SLENG GENOCIDE MUSEUM (S-21)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Photos of children tortured & killed in S21 in Khmer Rouge regime which wiped out one third of the country's population.

Photos of children tortured & killed in S21 in Khmer Rouge regime which wiped out one third of the country

We went to the killing fields which was where most of the 1.5 – 3 million people were murdered as a result of evil Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime only ending 3 decades ago. I found it hard to imagine what went on there and the stacks of skulls piling up was eerie but it didn’t really connect with me until we went to Security Office 21 (S21).

That was pretty heavy stuff. S-21 is basically a school where all the detainees were imprisoned before being brought off to the killing fields. It was a notorious concentration camp. Many people died here too but it was mainly a place for torture.

From the outside it didn’t look very out of the ordinary, just a regular old school with rusty barbwire on the fence. The first building to our left was probably the administration building. In each of the four rooms were a steel bed, a leg manacle, and ammunition box. On the wall was a large picture of a dead tortured person manacled to the bed. Apparently the graves in the courtyard held the bodies of these last victims, killed only hours before the Vietnamese discovered the place, the rooms were left as they were. This was a grim enough introduction but worse horrors were to come.

Out in the exercise ground was an extra tall and sturdy pull-up bar under this was a large urn full of muddy rainwater. The illustration board explained that this was used to torture prisoners. The prisoners had their hands bound behind their backs and hung up the bar by their hands causing their shoulders to dislocate. They were then brought down and half-drowned in putrid liquids in the urn.

The next building in the centre of the school was the interrogation house and had a large haunting display of mug shots of prisoners and guards. The Khmer Rouge didn’t have enough time to destroy their meticulous documentation of their crimes in the face of an oncoming Vietnamese invasion. It was a weird feeling to see the faces of all these people who would never be seen again and who would end their lives in the worst possible ways. Men, women, children, old, young, even a westerner, and a couple of Indians, they are now just a staring face on the display boards. The guards were a mere rabble of juveniles, it’s amazing how easily children, when trained, can do the most heinous acts.

On display were the crude instruments of torture, there was nothing sophisticated with these improvised farm equipment. Wire whips, pick axe handles, iron bars etc to use these against innocent chained humans is something only heavily conditioned (by fear, mob behaviour, ideology, mind control etc,) or innately sadistic, mentally ill people can do. Paintings on the wall by one of the survivors show the hellish conditions and cruel tortures in graphic detail.

The next building had the cells, one large hall must have held hundreds of prisoners. They were all made to lie prone packed like sardines each prisoner’s ankle was manacled to an iron rebar. It’s impossible to imagine the agony endured in that place, the pain that sunk down in the worn clay tiles. With the intense tropical humidity they wore only underwear to survive, their skin was diseased with close contact and poor hygiene. Metal ammunition cases served as toilets, they were never unshackled. The verandah and windows were enclosed with rusty barbwire.

The upper levels had the solitary confinement cells. Walking down the narrow corridor with dark closet-like wooden cells on both sides was a ghastly horror, the atmosphere was heavy and oppressive. The brick cells were much the same, grim and dungeon-like, the walls must have echoed the screams of its enclosed victims.

I finished my tour with a room of pictures and biographic material about the victims and torturers in this place. About 17,000 people entered the gate as detainees only less than 10 survived. The last room had a display case of browning skulls piled in a heap the skulls had holes and cracks in the craniums. A painting showed how most of the detainees ended their lives at the “killing fields” the blindfolded victims were lined up and their brains dashed out with a wood ox cart axle.

I had enough of the inhumanity of man. I left with a sick feeling and a heavy heart.

ALARMING STATISTICS

  • Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia
  • 85% of the population lives in rural areas
  • GDP (Gross domestic product) per capita is approximately USD280
  • 37% of the population live below the poverty line (less than USD1/day)
  • Infant mortality rate is high. 95 per 1000 live births
  • Approximately half of the children under 5 years of age are moderately or severely underweight
  • Average life expectancy is 57 years
  • Almost half of the population is below the age of 15
  • No accurate information about the literacy rate, although it is estimated that the adult literacy rate is 48% for men, and only 22% for women

 

 

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About Pamela's Online Journal

Working mother of 3 boys, loves travelling & writing.

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